So many of the awards being presented on the world’s stage mean little or nothing to the rest of us who work, sweat, and toil each and every day. One that quickly comes to mind is Time’s meaningless and superficial “Person of the Year” being awarded to an international war criminal such as George Bush.
Occasionally however, someone is recognized with an award, by a recognizing body, that is worthy and deserved—a person who truly has done something significant and exemplary—and we should all sit up and take notice.
Wangari Matthai is Kenya’s vice minister of the environment. The 64-year-old biologist has been a grassroots activist for environmental causes most of her life. Matthai heads up Kenya’s Green Belt Movement, which pays poor Kenyan women to plant three trees per year. Since it’s inception in the late-1970’s, over 30 million trees have been planted.
Through its program, Green Belt provides a small amount of compensation to these poor women after the tree has received the important nurturance and protection it needs to survive. In addition, education about birth control is a component of the program, which addresses issues of overpopulation. As a result of this program, previously ravished forests are replenished, as well as the inherent global environmental benefits brought about through photosynthesis, with the trees absorbing carbon dioxide, and off-setting greenhouse gas emissions from rich industrial nations like the United States.
For her efforts at building sustainable communities of change, Wangari was honored with the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize.
Here’s to more meaningful awards being given to women like Wangari, who represent a new paradigm of hope and change for our world, versus men like Bush, who wallow in a paradigm from the old world, giving us death, disease, and destruction.